Thursday, November 17, 2011

NBC gives Community an F,
with chance to earn passing grade

I learned this week that NBC has given up on Community, one of my favorite shows, and is kicking it out of school, giving it’s cherished Thursday night 8 p.m. slot to another show, 30 Rock, wrapped up in shiny midseason foil and tied up with a pretty, bright red bow. The tenth and final episode of Season 3, Regional Holiday Music, will air on December 15th.

Bah humbug!

In television, as in real estate, value is in location location location. Thursday night has been the golden slot ever since Seinfeld first made it the “must watch” night of the week back in 1990. However, 8 p.m. Thursday has become unlucky as of late. Simon Cowell’s X-Factor begins at 8 on Thursdays on FOX. Big Bang Theory (another of my other favorite shows) is also slotted for 8 on Thursday on CBS. It’s no wonder that Community hasn’t been able to make the grade this year. Since I work at night, I usually can't watch it during its regular time slot and end up watching it on cable primetime on demand (Channel 304 here on Brighthouse cable in Orlando).

Although it's a favorite of mine, I’ve never written about Community, a funny and abstract intelligent comedy revolving around the on-campus lives of seven students who attend Greendale Community College. The show stars Joel McHale as Jeff Winger, a successful lawyer who has been forced to go back to school to re-earn his college degree after his original degree is revoked.

I suppose I took the show for granted, assumed it would always be there in some shape or form, and would see some of the more successful students graduate after the typical four years (when an actor decides to leave the show), then see a cast of new characters introduced, before finally graduating gracefully after eight glorious seasons.


Plot in a nutshell

If you've never seen Community, and would like to know what all the fuss is about, here is a quick synopsis:

Our star, Jeff Winger, begrudgingly enrolls in the local community college after being threatened of being exposed for not having a real degree. Once enrolled, Winger joins a study group with an interesting collection of students:
  • Chevy Chase as Pierce, an older student and the son of a wealthy wipes mogul;
  • The sweet and loveable, but gullible Bible-verse-touting Shirley, played by Yvette Nicole Brown;
  • Danny Pudi as Abed, an aspiring film maker who sees the world as if he is behind a camera;
  • Abed’s inseparable best friend, Troy, played by Donald Glover, who in real life is also an aspiring rap artist performing under the name, Childish Gambino;
  • Annie, a highly intelligent young student with a quirky twist who has an innocent romantic relationship with Winger. She is played by Alison Brie, who also starred in Mad Men before it too, was cancelled; and
  • Gillian Jacobs as Britta, a beautiful, seemingly quite normal and ordinary woman who Winger develops a crush on in the first season.
The staff and instructors have proven to be even wackier than the students:
  • Senor Chang played by Ken Jeong, a vengeful Spanish teacher who hands out ridiculous assignments. Chang is now a security officer in the third season.
  • Dean Pelton played by Jim Rash, whose incompetence as manager of the school is somehow overlooked by the powers that be.
  • Vice Dean Laybourne played by John Goodman, who was just introduced this season as the J. Edgar Hoover of the school, is the head of the lucrative Air Conditioning Studies department which brings in vast amounts of corporate donations and "owns" the school.
Plot lines are complex, highly imaginative, and usually quite fantastical in nature. Celebrities, such as Betty White, Malcom Jamal Warner, Jack Black, and Andy Dick have made appearances as guest stars.

Joel McHale

I originally tuned in to watch Community 3 years ago simply because I’m a big fan of Joel McHale. McHale is a Seattle native who cut his comedy teeth on a locally produced Saturday Night Live-like show, Almost Live, where he does a mean Braveheart impression. The word on the street in Seattle is that the show is loosely based on the real life Seattle Community College system, particularly the Capitol Hill campus where students are just as colorfully eccentric as those attending the fictional Greendale, which in true Microsoft-tech-geeky style, also has it's own ridiculously humorous Greendale website.

The multi-talented McHale also hosts The Soup, which airs on Friday nights at 10 p.m. on E TV (channel 65 here in Orlando.)

I was once privileged to see Joel McHale live in the flesh during one of his tapings of Almost Live. He was impersonating the character of William Wallace, originally portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart. In this rare video clip where he is interviewed by news anchor John Keister, McHale has some wise words to say which ironically apply today:

    McHale - "Make no mistake about it. This is war... A television's rating period is a vile, vile, bloody thing. Where the weak are crushed like insects, and only the strong survive. But this is not just about ratings, or being number one, or even about, "Must See TV." It's about, Our Freedom!"

    Keister - "'well, It's just a TV show."

    McHale - "Who's being naive now, John Keister? Just a TV show! Just a TV show, my ass!... And you know who's doing it? NBC! The number one television network in all of Scotland.

    Keister - "That's America..."

    McHale - "Shut up! The network that brings us Seinfeld, and they're taking that from us, too... For while they may take the most popular television show of all time off the air, they can never take, Our Freedom!"

For more information on the cancellation, see this great article by Patrick Munn on Primetime TV, Nov. 17, 2011. If you would like to save Community, you can send NBC a message directly via this webpage. I also urge you to become a fan on their official Community TV show facebook page.

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